I must admit that I had some initial hesitation when I picked up Dr. Norman Rosenthal’s latest book, Super Mind—another book on Transcendental Meditation (TM)? Did he not write one already a few years ago? This latest offering is in some ways an extension of his previous work, Transcendence, though this book aims to bring TM to a wider audience and integrates up-to-date research. While I do not practise TM, its popularity intrigues me. After flipping through a few pages and doing my own personal meditation practice, I decided to dive in. Ultimately, I am glad I did.
The book is based on the premise that TM can cultivate a state of consciousness transcendent beyond the experience of the self, which Rosenthal refers to as “Super Mind”. He details the different stages of this heightened state, based on Vedic teachings. The goal of TM practice is to become Super Mind at all times during rest and play, in the waking, sleep and dream states. Achieving Super Mind is the key to a richer life—physically (including material riches!), emotionally and spiritually.
The book is divided into three sections that take the reader through the foundational principles of TM and its benefits, supported by research, including a survey he conducted with 600 participants. He also includes myriad anecdotes consisting of endorsements from celebrities, artists, performers and athletes, which inject a certain gloss and “wow-factor” to the assertions. Nevertheless, the book is thorough in its treatment of the topic, and touches upon the brain and body’s physiology in the transcendent state, purported benefits on memory, creativity, emotional resilience, interpersonal conflict resolution, treatment of addictions and certain mental health disorders. Furthermore, he speaks of TM facilitating the “support of nature”, whereby the practitioner is able to tap into co-creative intelligence. Rosenthal also includes impressions drawn from his experience as a TM practitioner, that this technique provides a deep form of rest and can even induce a blissful euphoric state with consistent practice. Though practical, this book is not instructional as it does not impart the meditation technique. That must be learned directly from a certified teacher.
Rosenthal also devotes a chapter to contrasting TM and mindfulness, most commonly taught as the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. While mindfulness may be inherently meditative and both involve focused intention and attention, he stresses the differences. He emphasizes that TM is easier to learn. Differences in neural activity induced by the two techniques are distinguishable by electroencephalogram. Although he maintains that he is not trying to favour one method, he is also clearly not a neutral critic.
The book concludes with observations on the role of TM in attainment of cosmic consciousness—“pure awareness” of and within a connected universe. This is Super Mind.
I am impressed by all that TM may offer, though I believe—as Rosenthal himself agrees—that TM is not the sole vehicle for attaining the exalted states of consciousness of Super Mind. Meditation in all its forms has the ability to transform the human body, mind and psyche. I firmly believe that it has the power to revolutionize our society to become more inclusive, egalitarian and benevolent. Therefore, I commend those actively researching the benefits of meditation. I hope to see meditation integrated into our school curricula, workplaces, penal and healthcare systems.
At the end of the book, it is quite clear that transcending the so-called ordinary mind to Super Mind is not really about the mind at all. Instead, it is a return to and remembering of the original, pre-cognitive and supra-cognitive state—the wellspring of life. The fact that meditation can be the portal to this sublime state can, and should, give us pause for contemplation and gratitude.
Karen Ho, MD, received a medical degree and completed her neurology residency training at Queen’s University Medical School in Kingston. She is currently in private practice in Ottawa, Ontario and also takes part in teaching and mentorship. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors, dance and visual arts.